Book Bingo 2019 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite bloggers, Theresa Smith Writes and The Book Muse. Each Saturday, on a fortnightly basis, beginning on Saturday 5th January 2019, Ashleigh, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The Book Bingo 2019 card contains a total of 30 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year, with the aim to complete the whole card by the end of December. Two of the Book Bingo entries this year will be flexible, so that means it is completely down us as to when we post these entries, to ensure all 30 are ticked off by the end of the year. Do keep an eye out on our respective blog sites for our bonus round entries! To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us, there is no crossover – that is planned anyway! However, as Ashleigh, Theresa and I enjoy similar books, especially books by Australian women writers, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we end up with more than one book double up, as was the case in 2018! We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post, tagging us on social media, or by visiting The Book Muse and Theresa Smith Writes.
Katya de Becerra’s stunning debut combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.
Hayden has tried to put the past behind her, and so far it’s worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and flatmate, Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade ago, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.
As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, Del in tow, it begins: neighbours whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible – something that threatens reality itself.
The author of What the Woods Keep, Katya de Becerra, caught my attention by the fact that she is a Russian native, now an Australian, who learnt English by translating Queen songs with the aid of a Russian-English Dictionary. This is a great claim to fame and the fact that Katya de Becerra has published her first book in English is a noteworthy accomplishment. What the Woods Keep is a dark and swirling young adult novel that draws on themes of fantasy and mysticism.
At the heart of Katya de Becerra’s novel, What the Woods Keep, is central protagonist Hayden. To mark her eighteenth birthday, Hayden receives the gift of her childhood home. But Hayden’s childhood home has many deep seated secrets, and as Hayden has worked hard to conceal her painful past, returning to the site of her problems may be fraught with complications. Hayden’s journey encompasses her mother’s strange disappearance, along with her father’s wild accusations of a lost race. Hayden herself has nightmares, which are defined by odd symbols linking to the woods where she lived as a child. Hayden decides to make the difficult trek back to her old home and what she encounters there is quite strange indeed. It is up to Hayden to uncover the secrets of the woods and what they mean for her past, present and future.
I don’t usually gravitate towards the genre or themes What the Woods Keep falls into. I often fail to understand or engage with fantasy, science fiction and speculative fiction novels, which are the categories this particular novel slots into. However, I do appreciate a good solid family mystery novel and I am glad I gave What the Woods Keep a go. For a book targeted at older teen readers, I have to say this one really challenged and perplexed me. What the Woods Keep offered a pure exercise of the mind. It is good every now and then to challenge your reading choices.
There is some great foreshadowing that occurs in this novel. Even the cover worked to draw me in. The book itself is a visual spectacle. Dark and twisty forest branches adorn the front, back and initial opening pages of this book. Accompanying the spooky branches are strange symbols, which piqued my curiosity factor. Themes wise, What the Woods Keep is a very clever novel. Katya de Becerra draws on aspects of science and technology to heighten the tension of the mystery aspect of this novel. In today’s world where technology and STEM concepts seem to dominate, it is a good to see a novel for our older teen readers the taps into this highly relevant mode of thinking.
Hayden, the lead protagonist is a character that I am sure younger readers will be able to relate to with ease. As I am an older reader, the connection wasn’t completely there, but I was still interested in her predicament and I cared for her welfare. The periphery characters build upon Hayden’s story, adding further speculation to the events at hand. These include Hayden’s family, friends and love interest. The ancestral home Hayden inherits also has a mind and presence of its own, feeding in to the eerie atmosphere of the novel.
The structure of What the Woods Keep is quite unique. The first person point of view of Hayden sits alongside a collection of different text mediums. These include letters, wills, forms, handwritten notes, medical reports, interview transcripts and diaries. Varying the modes to tell this intriguing story is an interesting approach to structure a novel, and it definitely works to heighten the puzzle aspect of the story at hand.
What the Woods Keep is a mystical adventure of one young woman’s quest to unveil the secrets of her childhood home. A fantasy based book that transcends the dark recesses of your mind, expect to be tested, as well as shocked by this debut novel from Katya de Becerra.
What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra was published on 26th September 2018 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of What the Woods Keep, Katya de Becerra, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
What the Woods Keep is book #55 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge